Catholic Dictionary

Term

SANCTUARY, RIGHT OF

Definition

The claim to protection for those fleeing from justice or persecution. THe right of sanctuary was based on the inviolability attached to sacred things. Although generally confined to a church, it was later extended to the surrounding precincts. There was often a large ring or knocker on the church door, the holding of which gave a person the right of assylum. The privilege did not apply to sacrilege or high treason.